A week late, state budget is close to finished

Gov. Kathy Hochul announces budget in New York State Capitol Red Room. April 7, 2022.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

The wait is finally over – well, mostly.

Nearly a week after the state budget for the coming fiscal year was due, Gov. Kathy Hochul Thursday finally revealed details of a “conceptual” $220 billion budget agreement – around $4 billion more than her original proposal – between her office and the state legislature.

Hochul chalked the lateness of this year’s budget up the extra time it took to make the process more collaborative than it had been in years past under disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“From day one, when I stood in this very room seven and a half months ago, I said, ‘we’re going to do things differently,’ Hochul said. “And that is why you didn’t see the games played out in the press. The one-upmanship. The scoring points to get the upper hand, I wanted to make sure that we did it in a way that people knew was respectful, and to be able to still call them not just my partners but my friends.”

Among a laundry list of budget items, Hochul announced key rollbacks to recent criminal justice reforms including bail, discovery and “Raise the Age” amid the current crime wave.

“A very basic human need is to feel safe and secure for your family and your parents,” Hochul said. “And when that evaporates, that shatters the foundation that every person needs to have in order to go forth and to have a life where you can focus on your work, your family and other objectives. We have to establish that foundation of security once again, and we can do it while protecting the rights of individuals.”

The changes include allowing judges to consider a defendant’s history of gun use, the seriousness of the offense and whether they violated an order of protection when setting bail. Judges will also be able to look at whether a defendant is a repeat offender. Additionally, this will allow judges to set bail on gun charges that were previously only subject to a desk appearance ticket.

Hochul said they’ll also be “closing loopholes” when it comes to discovery and Raise the Age laws.

“You could have a case where someone is 16 or 17 and they are charged with an offense but they don’t end up in court until they’re over 18,” the governor said. “That’s sort of limbo here, and the cases were dismissed. So they were areas that just needed some fixing.”

The budget also contained a number of other policy items including the suspension of the state’s gas tax and allowing restaurants and bars to once again sell alcohol to-go. Additionally, the budget contains $7 billion in funding for childcare over the next four years, a $25 billion five year housing plan and $400 million for supporting the CUNY and SUNY systems.